Divorce can stir strong resentments. So strong that some spouses will go to extreme measures to get around the law.
A Minnesota college professor was recently convicted on fraud charges for falsifying financial statements to deprive his ex-wife of her share of his retirement savings. While criminal charges are rare, family court judges will severely sanction spouses for deliberately hiding or undervaluing marital assets.
He didn’t want to share his retirement nest egg
During divorce proceedings, Massoud Amin provided documents that valued his retirement savings at $745,000. His estranged wife was suspicious that the documents were doctored and that the actual value was much higher. She called police.
In the investigation, Amin’s financial consultant was subpoenaed. It turned out that the actual value of his accounts was $891,000, and that Amin had forged the documents he submitted during the discovery phase of divorce to artificially lower the balance of one account and to not report another account. Two years later, a Minnesota jury has convicted him of aggravated forgery. He could face prison time. He will likely lose his prestigious and high-paying university position. And in the end he will still have to split his retirement savings with his ex-wife.
Hiding assets is a dangerous game to play
New Jersey divorce law requires an equitable distribution of all marital assets, including retirement accounts. It does not matter if one spouse earned more money or contributed more money to retirement accounts. It doesn’t matter if one spouse never worked. Both spouses are entitled to (approximately) half of the total nest egg that was accumulated during the marriage.
The courts take a dim view of spouses who try to cheat the other out of their rightful share. This includes transferring or retitling assets, secret bank accounts, moving assets offshore, failing to disclose assets or knowingly misrepresenting the value of an asset.
In Amin’s case, he crossed a line by presenting forged documents to the court, which is a felony crime. But even if there are no criminal charges, the divorce court can punish such conduct. For example, if an undisclosed asset is discovered, the judge can order that the entire asset be awarded to the aggrieved spouse.
It’s not worth it. No matter how bitter you may feel that he or she “done you wrong,” lying about your assets is not the answer.